On February 21, 2023, Nathan Gorelick, term assistant professor of English, published a book review in American Literary History. In this article, Professor Gorelick examines Political Grammars: The Unconscious Foundations of Modern Democracy, written by Davide Tarizzo.
Gorelick provides a balanced evaluation of the book, which explores the irreconcilability of two important values in Euro-American modern democracies: individualism and nationalism. He summarizes Tarizzo’s argument, which employs Lacanian psychoanalysis to reason that if no modern democracy is capable of perfectly representing all of its citizen-subjects, and no citizen perfectly embodies their nation, then such nations are destined to fail. Ultimately, Gorelick explains, Tarizzo believes that modern democracies, or ‘first-person societies,’ “do not exist except in the peculiarity of their inexistences.”
While Gorelick does not disagree with Tarizzo’s conclusion, he asserts that in order to apply a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective to political-theoretical questions, as Tarizzo strives to, one ought to contend with the problem of sex and sexuality, which Tarizzo does not do. Gorelick calls Tarizzo’s argument “a novel answer” to the problem he approaches, but also notes that the author’s work is similar to previous theorists who go unmentioned in the book.